Our family got some terrific news last week. It was the sort of news that called for hands-in-the-air praise on the town square.
But I was so reluctant to share the good news with the people who had prayed for us most earnestly, the ones who sent daily kind words and Bible verses over texts, the ones who came to the house to pray.
In the same week that our family got the answers we had prayed for, a lot of our fiercest prayer warriors didn’t get the answers we had prayed for them. One friend was heading to chemo. Another got an awful diagnosis. We were praying for them, and they were praying for us, but when we got our good news, how in the world could we share it when their worlds had been so shaken?
I have long struggled with this question of suffering: Is it okay to be happy while others grieve? How in the world can we celebrate any good fortune at all when so many others anguish despite their impassioned prayers?
We’ve all been there. Every room we walk into holds both joy and sadness. You walk into your friend’s living room for a baby shower to celebrate a new life, and there’s someone else in the room struggling with infertility or pregnancy loss.
You walk into a church sanctuary to celebrate two young newlyweds, and someone in the room found out the day before that her husband has been having an affair.
You are being wheeled out of your hospital room with your discharge papers in hand, and you hear a code blue over the intercom.
All through life, we walk in and out of rooms swollen with both joy and sorrow, celebration and suffering. The same hospital corridor that leads you home is the one where countless mothers have wept an unthinkable loss.
Can we hold the tension of both the joy and the sadness that co-exist in these rooms?
Perhaps we can. Perhaps we must.
This is the embodiment of the Biblical mandate to “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15 NIV).
Almost every time I entertain this question of joy co-mingling with sorrow, I think of a quote from our dear (in)courage alumnus Ann Voskamp, who once wrote these words in a book that changed my entire perspective on gratitude: “I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks for . . . all the good things that a good God gives.”
When we neglect to rejoice, we deepen the wound of the world.
When we neglect to celebrate, we deepen the wound of the world.
When we neglect to give thanks, we deepen the wound of the world.
If we only allow sadness in the room, how will anyone ever know the taste of joy?
We must allow others to celebrate with us, even as we weep with them. And we must celebrate the joys of others, even as we ourselves suffer.
This is what it means to do life together, letting the bitter hold hands with the sweet in the rooms where we all dwell.
In the end, I decided to share our news with our dearest friends, these people from our small country church who so earnestly tended to us in prayer. I took a deep breath and then typed the good news into our private Facebook group, called simply “Church Group”:
Dad’s biopsy came back this morning with no cancer cells! We celebrate this good news and are incredibly grateful for all of you who visited us this week, prayed for us, called, texted, and quietly supported us in other ways. This church family has treated Mom and Dad as one of the family for many years. We also realize that so many of you who have been so supportive are going through your own hard seasons. This church family is a beautiful picture of Romans 12:15 — we “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” We are here to weep with you, rejoice with you, and pray for you as well. We are all better together. xo